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Business Literacy and Development: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Rural Mexico

  • Gabriela Calderon
  • Jesse M. Cunha
  • Giacomo De Giorgi

A large share of the poor in developing countries run small enterprises, often earning low incomes. This paper explores whether the poor performance of businesses can be explained by a lack of basic business skills. We randomized the offer of a free, 48-hour business skills course to female entrepreneurs in rural Mexico. We find that those assigned to treatment earn higher profits, have larger revenues, serve a greater number of clients, are more likely to use formal accounting techniques, and more likely to be registered with the government. Indirect treatment effects on those entrepreneurs randomized out of the program, yet living in treatment villages, are economically meaningful, yet imprecisely measured. We present a simple model of experience and learning that helps interpret our results, and consistent with the theoretical predictions, we find that "low-quality" entrepreneurs are the most likely to quit their business post-treatment, and that the positive impacts of the treatment are increasing in entrepreneurial quality.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19740.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19740
Note: DEV ED
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  1. David S. Lee, 2009. "Training, Wages, and Sample Selection: Estimating Sharp Bounds on Treatment Effects," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(3), pages 1071-1102.
  2. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter Klenow, 2009. "Misallocation and Manufacturing TFP in China and India," Working Papers 09-04, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  3. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2012. "Business training and female enterprise start-up, growth, and dynamics : experimental evidence from Sri Lanka," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6145, The World Bank.
  4. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2007. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2934, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Robert W. Fairlie & Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2014. "Behind the GATE Experiment: Evidence on Effects of and Rationales for Subsidized Entrepreneurship Training," CESifo Working Paper Series 4960, CESifo Group Munich.
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  7. Nicholas Bloom & Benn Eifert & Aprajit Mahajan & David McKenzie & John Roberts, 2013. "Does Management Matter? Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 1-51.
  8. Joseph P. Romano & Michael Wolf, 2003. "Stepwise Multiple Testing as Formalized Data Snooping," Working Papers 17, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  9. A. Colin Cameron & Jonah B. Gelbach & Douglas L. Miller, 2008. "Bootstrap-Based Improvements for Inference with Clustered Errors," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 414-427, August.
  10. Manuela Angelucci & Giacomo De Giorgi, 2009. "Indirect Effects of an Aid Program: How Do Cash Transfers Affect Ineligibles' Consumption?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 486-508, March.
  11. Dean Karlan & Martin Valdivia, 2006. "Teaching entrepreneurship: Impact of business training on microfinance clients and institutions," Natural Field Experiments 00282, The Field Experiments Website.
  12. Bruhn, Miriam & Zia, Bilal, 2011. "Stimulating managerial capital in emerging markets : the impact of business and financial literacy for young entrepreneurs," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5642, The World Bank.
  13. Karlan, Dean, 2012. "Behind the GATE Experiment: Evidence on Effects of and Rationales for Subsidized Entrepreneurship Training," Working Papers 95, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  14. McKenzie, David, 2012. "Beyond baseline and follow-up: The case for more T in experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 210-221.
  15. Erica Field & Seema Jayachandran & Rohini Pande, 2010. "Do Traditional Institutions Constrain Female Entrepreneurship? A Field Experiment on Business Training in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 125-29, May.
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